Surround Sound on Music CDs

Discussion in 'AV Receivers' started by Dan Mertz, Feb 5, 2004.

  1. Dan Mertz

    Dan Mertz Stunt Coordinator

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    I recently got my first HT system (a Yamaha HTR5550 and Infinity speakers). I mainly got it to listen to movies in surround sound and it sounds great. However, I'm not sure how to get the best sound possible when listening to music on CD.

    The receiver has a couple of modes like "hall" or "rock concert" which I think sound wierd. Then there is the "dolby/pro logic" setting whick sounds ok and there is also a setting which sends all the sounds equally to all 5 speakers. The manual does not do a good job in my opinion of recommending which modes are designed for music. Should I expect to get a surround effect from a CD where different sounds are assigned to different channels. Are CDs recorded to deliver in surround, or are they designed for the sound to come mainly from the center front speakers?
     
  2. Cameron Yee

    Cameron Yee Executive Producer
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    Standard CDs are not designed for multichannel, just stereo. If you are a purist, then two channel stereo is the only way to listen to them. The receiver is just running the CD audio through signal processing to achieve the effects like "Hall" and "Orchestra." Each receiver manufacturer has different ways of doing it, so there is no standard per se, other than two channel.

    Initially I liked listening in my Onkyo's "5-Channel Stereo" mode, but now I only listen in stereo (unless I have an option for multi with DVD-A or SACD).
     
  3. Dan Mertz

    Dan Mertz Stunt Coordinator

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    Ah-ha. I figured out how to set it on Pro Logic II. That's much better. Thank you.
     
  4. James Sarno

    James Sarno Stunt Coordinator

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    With CD's I usually use 2 ch stereo...but 5 ch stereo is good also...play around with your system,listen to what sounds good to you

    pro logic is a way to go also...seems like you like it.
    keep experimenting with it...it's half the fun[​IMG]
     
  5. David Judah

    David Judah Screenwriter

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    One thing I'd recommend is spending some time getting your front speakers placed right for your main listening position. Often, enough time is not spent doing that seemingly simple task, but it will make listening to both stereo and multichannel more rewarding.

    The center and surround placements are often dictated by the room layout and furnishings, but you'll get a more enveloping sound if you have some room for experimentation with those as well.

    If you like Pro-Logic II, try adjusting some of the settings in Music mode like Center Width and Dimension.

    DJ
     
  6. ChrisWiggles

    ChrisWiggles Producer

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    I would leave music in 2-channel certainly. You can experiment, sure, go right ahead, but do NOT thnk that you "aren't using your system to the fullest" just because you're not using all the speakers. IMO, 2-channel with stereo music is the only way to go, unless you have some really good conservative dsp processing, such as with meridian. Regular PL stuff and DSP stuff just doesn't cut it for me, unless I'm just fooling around.
     
  7. jonathan_little

    jonathan_little Stunt Coordinator

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    I've tried Prologic II Music and done all of the tweaking I could with it, but it still really stinks when listening to film scores or other orchestral music. I guess there's way too much out of phase information and enabling Prologic II decoding (even on albums which are Dolby Surround encoded) makes them sound terribly muddy. Pop music with a wide stereo image seems to give the best results with PL2, but it still seems rather gimicky to me.
     
  8. Brad E

    Brad E Second Unit

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    I use 5 ch stereo for music. This sounds the best to me.
     
  9. LanceJ

    LanceJ Producer

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    To me, Logic7 sounds better than DPLII or DTS:Neo but they all sound pretty similar, though DPLII always seems to put too much material into the center channel for my liking.

    Dolby Pro-Logic can add some nice ambience to music, but sometimes it just sounds weird: instruments will just pop up randomly in the rear channels at the wrong times. Usually the more reverb in a song the more surround effect you'll get. Lots of TV shows and movies will sound good with Dolby as long as they are recorded in stereo (and it doesn't always matter whether or not they say "Dolby Surround" in the credits; the decoder is mostly looking for out-of-phase information).

    The other typical DSP effects, hall/live/church/etc almost always have waaaaay too reverb in them and sound really gimmicky. On my own Technics SA-DA8 receiver, if I select "live", turn the delay way down to about 20ms & lower the volume of the rears a bit, with most kinds of music I can get a pretty decent airy effect that is not distracting. If I want a more aggressive effect with music or stereo movies/TV shows I use the "theater" option--this doesn't really add much reverb but instead causes already existing rear effects to sound much more discrete (i.e. less airy). Try it with the The Simpsons and you'll see what I mean. I have a music dvd called Spaced Out that has an electronic music soundtrack and it sounds really wacky (in a good way) when played with this DSP effect.

    Got a stereo receiver and want cheap surround? Do a search for the "Hafler circuit". I used this for years on my old Pioneer receiver and it worked pretty good & cost me nothing (though some receivers don't like it so be careful).

    LJ
     
  10. John Garcia

    John Garcia Executive Producer

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    I use no DSPs when listening to 2ch music.

    PLII has a few varieties. In many cases, PLII is configurable, particularly for how the center is weighted, allowing you to spread some or all of the center info to the other two mains. PLII on my previous receiver did not have configurability, and I was not pleased with the sound, but with my new receiver, I was able to adjust it to the way I like it. I only use it on the occasional stereo DVD though.
     
  11. Dean-P

    Dean-P Stunt Coordinator

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    I like to listen to music using the "rock concert" dsp, two channel sounds too plain otherwise.[​IMG]
     
  12. Danny Tse

    Danny Tse Producer

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    Believe it or not, at one point, RCA/BMG released CDs encoded in Dolby Surround. Most of these were of classical music or soundtracks though. On the other hand, I have a CD when I became a member of the "Home Theater Owner Association" (not kidding!) that had a Stevie Nicks track encoded in Dolby Surround.

    On the subject of the "Hafler circuit", you can still by a brand new Dynaco QD-2 passive surround sound simulator for just $29.99.

    [​IMG]

    Don't laugh....a lot of stereo purists swear by this little box. The now-defunct Audio magazine had an article on how to make one yourself.
     
  13. JoeHard

    JoeHard Stunt Coordinator

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    Listen in the mode you think sounds best. I have many cd's that sound better to me in 5 channel, some sound better in 5 channel stereo, some in dts neo6 and some in ProLogic II music. Some older cd's sound like that sound like a clock radio in 2 channel seem to open up in multi-channel with more depht and seperation. I do prefer 2 channel at times but to say it is always better because an "audiophile" says so is rediculous. jmo
     

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